Ten Square Miles

An Environmental Activism Resource

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Gasland Film Response

Film Response

By Matt Allchin

Gasland, directed by Josh Fox, is a 2010 documentary that focuses on communities in the United States affected by natural gas drilling otherwise known as hydrofracking. The film follows Josh Fox as he travels to many different homes that have been negatively affected by the drilling around them because of their faucets lighting on fire or because of the illnesses they have caught from their contaminated water.

One of the biggest strengths of this film is Josh Fox. The film is directed and basically stars him and because of this he brings a lot of personality to the film. From the banjo playing to the conversations with the locals you can really see how passionate about the subject he is. He also supplies some comedic relief to the film, which makes it more entertaining. The film even starts out with him reading a letter from a natural gas company looking to lease his home in Pennsylvania so that they can drill in that area. This just enforces how important this issue is to him and why he is doing this. This is worth mentioning because we can clearly see the intent of the filmmaker and what he is trying to say with this movie, which is that hydrofracking, has negative impacts to the environment and the communities around the drilling sites.

The way the documentary ss shot and edited was interesting. The film feels independent because it seems like Josh is doing everything such as the scene where he is trying to call various natural gas companies himself and how his interviews are less formal and more of a conversation with the locals. Most of the shots are handheld and are filmed in close quarters during the interviews. Some parts even look surreal like the signature shot of Josh playing his banjo while wearing the gas mask. Overall, the documentary felt personal which seems like that what Josh was going for since this was an issue that was about to impact his own home.

A downfall of the film is that it mostly just provides the perspective of gas drilling effects on the local level. Even though there was a scene where he tried to get interviews with high ups in the natural gas corporations, the fact that there weren’t many of them hindered the movie. This is an important perspective especially because many of the corporations have come out against the film and have stated some inaccuracies. Whether they are right or not is up in the air since these aren’t the most honest people but it does make the lack of perspectives more of an issue.

On top of the lack of perspectives, Gasland doesn’t go into the impacts of hydrofracking on a global scale. Instead all of the interviews and scenes were spent looking at the impacts on a micro scale. Looking at the global level could have helped enforce the idea that the negative effects of natural gas drilling outweigh the benefits. Not only that, but not a single solution to this issue was brought up throughout the movie. Because of this the film feels very depressing and often leaves the viewer feeling hopeless. I understand that this film is meant to turn heads and shine some light on hydrofracking but providing solutions would have been a good addition for the people who are not as informed on the issue.

The overall message of Gasland was clear and well received. Even though it is not a perfect film, it was able to draw attention this controversial issue in our society and did its job of educating people about the horrible impacts happening to people around drilling. It has definitely riled up a lot of people against hydrofracking and has even been compared to Silent Spring by Rachel Carson as far as exposing problems in a common process in our society

Undercover Activists Show How Easy It Is To Buy Off Professor

Corrupt Academics

By Matt Allchin

During the Paris climate talks that have been going on, Greenpeace used the platform of COP21 to release results of an undercover investigation. This investigation revealed just how easy it is to pay an academic to say whatever you want.

While posing as representatives from oil and gas companies, the investigators struck deals with academics from Princeton and Penn State to publish academic articles that promoted the positive benefits of carbon dioxide and the positive impacts of coal to the poor.

One of the academics exposed, William Happer of Princeton, is testifying at Ted Cruz’s Senate hearing on protecting climate denial. This is just another investigation that shows how corrupt our system is becoming.

Read more about this here

7 Way Nordic Startups are Fighting Climate Change

Every Little Bit Helps

By Matt Allchin

Collecting Waste Without Wasting Energy

Finnish company Enevo manufactures tiny, battery-operated wireless sensors. These sensors measure and predict how full waste containers are in urban areas. The information is used to generate optimized routes and schedules for collection trucks. Trucks don’t have to waste mileage going to almost empty garbage cans which means less CO2 emissions.

Encouraging Electric Vehicles

Norwegian Meshcrafts wants to remove the obstacles for switching to electric cars. The company’s founder was surprised at how difficult it was to find charging points for electric vehicles. Meshcraft aims to enable everyone to sell electricity to others from their own charging points, at their own chosen price. This would be the same as how people rent out their houses on Airbnb.

Sharing Bike Rides

AirDonkey contacts wannabe bike riders and bicycle owners via smartphone. Those who want to hire out their bike get a Bluetooth enabled lock, which users open with their phone once they’ve reserved and paid for the bike through the app. This is basically another Airbnb clone, but for bikes.

Making Waste into Fashion

Pure Waste created the official gear for the Slush Conference in Helsinki. The company is making 100% recycled garments made of cutting waste, which makes up 15% of all fabric used in manufacturing. This saves 38.5 billion liters of water every year, which would otherwise be used on cotton irrigation.

Harnessing the Sun in Developing Regions

The Norwegian company Bright Products launched their SunTurtle and solar LED lamps in May last year. They have provided 300,000 solar lamps to 2 million people around the world. They reduce the use of gasoline generators by providing these lights to places like Africa, Asia and South America.

Helping Stop Food Waste

Finnish tech company Foller aims to end food waste by encouraging the sales of food close to its sell-by date. Their solution is based on RFID tags the monitor products on the shelf of a shop. If something isn’t selling and is likely going to go to waste, it’s price automatically goes down.

Gamifying Energy Behavior 

Swedish startup company Greenly has an app that will gamify our energy use experience. The app collects information about your energy use and gives you tips for better energy efficiency. The app also has you compete against your neighbors to see who is being more efficient.

Last Call at the Oasis Film Response

Film Response

By Matt Allchin

Last Call at the Oasis, directed by Jessica Yu and produced by Participant Media, is a 2011 documentary about the water crises that is going to be a huge problem in the years to come. The film touches upon many different water problems we are facing such as the decreasing water level by the Hoover Dam, the huge drought in California, and the contamination of many American’s water supply. The main point of the film was to inform and alarm the people who are not aware of this problem because it is coming sooner than many think.

The movie does a great job exploring the many different issues and spends a decent amount of time on each one. Each issue had a pretty simple yet in depth explanation making it accessible to the general audience who may not be knowledgeable on the subject. Each issue was definitely worth mentioning and did a successful job at scaring the audience into realizing we need to stop taking water for granted.

Erin Brockovich was a main character and she brought a lot of personality to the documentary. After seeing the Hollywood movie made about her, I strongly connected with her from the get-go and was more inclined to care about the issues she was covering. There is a part towards the middle in the movie where she is telling the people at a town meeting that they’re water is contaminated and that there is basically nothing they can do to make the government solve it. I felt this was the one of the strongest parts of the film because you witness these people realize how they are poisoning themselves and there is little they can do to stop it.

Throughout most of the film many problems were covered that involved a lot of the uses of water. Towards the end of the film solutions were brought up to help solve the water crises such as recycling our wastewater. I thought when the science behind this plan was explained it was an intriguing concept that we will have to implement in our society in the near future. However, the film then showed the company trying to market the water and use the actor Jack Black as their spokesperson in a humorous way. I thought this was a low part in the documentary because the film goes from talking about the impending doom of our water supply to watching Jack Black make a commercial about toilet water. The marketing team of the recycled water was going about it the right wrong way because people who were asked to try the water on the street treated it more as a dare instead of something we will have to adapt to in the near future. However, I did like how this scene showed how ignorant the public is to the water crises with one woman saying, “If we need to recycle sewage water that must mean we’re in some sort of shortage that I’m not aware of.” This is just an example of how unaware the public is and how little media covers this crisis.

A solution that I am glad the film touched on was turning salt water into drinkable water because this was a solution that I had in mind going in to this movie. However, this is shot down due to the fact of how expensive it would be to do it also produces a huge quantity of green house gases. A solution that I’m surprised was not touched upon and was talked about in class was harvesting rainwater for daily use. This could be a solution any citizen could do at his or her own home and be implemented into future housing developments. It was odd to me that this was not talked about in the film.

Overall, I thought the message of the film was portrayed well. A lot of issues that will become big problems in the future were brought up and made the audience aware of them. It seemed that the main theme of this film was urgency because of we do need to start acting now. This was represented well by scaring the audience by showing what is to come in the next couple of years if we don’t start doing something.

Reagan, Bush 41 memos reveal sharp contrast with today’s GOP on climate and the environment


Reagan and Bush administration memos

By Matt Allchin

Memos that were formerly classified documents from the Bush and Reagan administrations were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and released by the National Security Archive.

The documents portray two senior officials in the two Republican administrations advocating for U.S. leadership on combating climate change.

“If climate change within the range of current predictions actually occurs, the consequences for every nation and every aspect of human activity will be profound,” assistant secretary Richard J. Smith wrote in the memo.

These memos provide an interesting insight of an environmentally conscious Republican White House throughout the 1980s and 1990s.This is especially interesting when looking at the GOP officials today who deny the consensus of human caused climate change and refuse to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Read the full article here

Biodegradable plastics may not be as great as you think

Biodegradable plastics don’t disintegrate as quickly in the ocean

By Matt Allchin

A new report from the United Nations presents a couple of environmental problems regarding biodegradable plastics. Biodegradable plastics were designed to help reduce waste but some polymers need to be exposed to prolonged temperatures to disintegrate which is hard to come by in nature.

Ocean degredation rates are even lower because UV light penetration is limited. On top of this it is cold and there is less oxygen so these plastics will just stay there for a long period of time.

The biodegradable plastics also pose a problem for recycling. Mixing biodegradable plastics with standard plastics can compromise the properties of the original plastic. When the plastic does disintegrate, the fragments behave exactly the same way as a standard piece of polyethylene which poses a threat to wildlife.

Ice in the Arctic ends up trapping a lot of fragments because it is too cold for them to disintegrate. The amount of micro plastics in these areas are at least three times more abundant than in other areas in oceans.

Full article here

Warning: Footage contains graphic content.

The animal rights organization Compassion Over Killing released an undercover video shot at the Quality Pork Processors (QPP) plant in Austin.

QPP is one of the most productive pork facilities in the country processing between 19,00 and 22,000 hogs per day. However, the speed may be due to the mistreatment of these hogs with footage of hogs being dragged and kicked to the slaughter area where they’re throats are then slit.

Not only that, but footage of animals with prolapsed organs and fecal matter contamination are seen being processed for food. This could cause potential food safety issues to the people who end up eating these contaminated animals.

Is eating meat at the rate we do now worth the animal abuse and food contamination that is going on in the animal agriculture industry?

Watch the video here:

Post by Matt Allchin


Animals That Have Already Gone Extinct


Over the last 500 years roughly 1,000 animals have gone extinct and that number is rapidly increasing. Scientists are saying that the rapid increase is due to climate change, loss of habitat, and  the introduction of non-native species. Here are some infographics that give statistics on extinction. For more pictures and the original article click here



Matt Allchin

Dirt! The Movie Film Reflection

Film Reflection

By Matt Allchin

Dirt! The Movie is a 2009 expository documentary directed by Gene Rosow and Bill Benenson. Based off the book Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth by William Bryant Logan, the film explores the consequences of our mistreatment of the dirt and soil of the world and our relationship with it.

Most of the film is narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis and by interviews with many people around the world. This is one of the major strengths of the film because we get different perspectives from people from different economic, social, and cultural background. It was interesting to see how different cultures interacted with dirt and why it was a necessity to their way of life. On top of that each interviewer had some sort of strong connection with dirt and the film focused a lot about how we feel about our relationship with our earth and made you appreciate all of the things dirt has done for a species.

While the animations seemed childish at times I felt as if they kept the film somewhat entertaining. Without the cartoons the whole movie would have just been footage of dirt landscapes and the interviews themselves. However, some animations were definitely weaker than others. Parts like the watercolor animation were cool to see unlike the little personified dirt cartoons parading around on screen we saw throughout.

While the film had many different interviews each one was a different topic making the film seem kind of all over the place. The filmmakers obviously tried to make this film accessible to everyone with topics ranging from the history of dirt using cartoonish animations to the dark topic of farmer suicide due to unfertile soil. The movie really generalized these issues and skipped around to different topics. One example was when they started to talk about the Dust Bowl it seemed like the documentary was going to make a big deal about our mistreatment of dirt and how that was a consequence but it barely talked about the event for five minutes.

The documentary also didn’t provide many solutions and when it did it didn’t even mention how feasible it was. The economic and political sides of the issues were not touched upon for the most part. For example, at the part where the lady had a garden on her roof and around her building in a city she talked about how great this is for dirt and the environment but we have no idea how much that would cost or how possible it even is. The film didn’t really touch on the corporation side of the issues either which I feel is an important perspective in environmental documentaries.

While the film has its weaknesses it still introduces an issue that many people don’t really think about in an accessible way. Going into this film I had no idea what they were even going to see about dirt for an hour and a half. However, after my viewing I am much more aware of the issues going on in our soil. The overall message of how we connect ourselves with dirt and our natural world was received Because of this the documentary did its job in educating me even if it didn’t necessarily motivate me.

Three Eco Friendly Gadgets & Devices

1. JAQ – The Future of Portable Chargingjaq-animation.gif

You’ll never have to plug into a power jack again. Ideal for everyday, on-the-go living, JAQ is completely off-the-grid. It’s always ready power, generated from water and salt contained in a slim power card. When the card is inserted into the charger, hydrogen is produced to fuel up the cell and power you on.

2. Spider & Insect Catcher

If you dislike spiders or other insects in your house and want to remove them without harm then all you need is the Spider Catcher. It works by surrounding the spider with bristles that close around the spider, the bristles harmlessly trap the spider, to allow you to pickup and release the spider outside. Spiders are essential to the environment. Releasing, not killing, promotes a healthy ecosystem See the device in action below: 

3. luminAID Solar Powered Light


A compact, solar-powered light that twists flat and inflates into a
lightweight, portable lantern. Safe, sustainable and ultra-portable, the LuminAID PackLite 12 is the perfect size to light up a tent or to keep around the house in a first aid kit. It provides up to 12 hours of consistent LED light or 32 hours in flashing mode for those emergency situations


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